Sunday, June 24, 2012

New D, role should help Dolphins' Wake get to QB


Two things changed for Dolphins' star pass rusher Cameron Wake this offseason.

He got paid, signing a five-year, $49 million contract that completed his arrival to NFL stardom from his humble Canadian Football League beginnings.

And his team switched from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a four-man front. This change will move Wake from outside linebacker to defensive end.

The scheme switch, which has become the trend for all four AFC East teams, is a response to the passing proliferation that the NFL is seeing. The 4-3 allows teams to get to the quarterback and defend the run while having versatility with their coverage packages.

Wake will now have his hand in the dirt nearly every down and will rush the passer every time he drops back. Anyone who watched the Dolphins closely last season saw that Miami often had the former CFL star as a down defensive end, but changing the base defense to a 4-3 is still a significant move.

Wake will now be setting the edge on every play, using his elite rushing ability to contain perimeter runs as well as being in position to do what he does best, attack the quarterback.

Teams will be forced to adjust their protections and double Wake, as most right tackles in the league would struggle handling him by themselves. That will either take a player out of running a passing route or ensure that the other three or more pass rushers have a single blocker.

This will give the blossoming Jared Odrick, rookie Olivier Vernon, and dominant Paul Soliai much more space to operate. Soliai is big and powerful enough to command double teams himself. The Dolphins' defensive line has the potential to create havoc in the passing game on its own, and even more so if they blitz a linebacker or defensive back.

If any of those players, as well as former Pro Bowl lineman Randy Starks, can consistently create presssure, then Wake may face more single coverage and pile up the sacks.

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